The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), UK, published a report showing continued growth in the demand for and supply of sustainable seafood.
The report, “Working together for thriving oceans,” points to an increasing global momentum in efforts to safeguard marine ecosystems and seafood supplies. For the first time, sales of seafood with the blue MSC label reached 1 million tons per year, supported by an increase in MSC-certified seafood catch of 34% over the past 5 years.
“Our oceans are being pushed to crisis point, and yet this feels like a time for optimism and a time for change,” says Rupert Howes, chief executive. “We are seeing increasing political and corporate commitment, backed by unprecedented consumer concern for our oceans. The MSC is determined to be part of the solution by working with partners across the fishing, retail, science and conservation communities.”
Today, 15% of global marine catch is certified to the MSC’s globally recognized standard for sustainable fishing, compared with 10% in 2014. The MSC’s report identifies several catalysts helping to drive this change:
- Growing consumer demand for and availability of sustainable seafood choices. According to research commissioned by the MSC, 83% of seafood consumers globally agree to protect the oceans for future generations. Shoppers now spend close to $10 billion per year on MSC labeled seafood. While sales remain highest in Northern Europe—in Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in particular—the MSC is also seeing rapid growth in sales of MSC-labeled seafood in Italy, China, and Japan. With this growth and marketing initiatives by the MSC and its partners, understanding of the MSC label has increased from 32% in 2016 to 37% in 2018.
- Fisheries responding to increased demand. Globally, fisheries are responding to increased demand for certified seafood and the need to protect oceans. The MSC continues to see growth in the number of certified sustainable fisheries from 216 in 2014 to 361 in 2019. These fisheries are located in 41 countries, compared with 36 in 2014. With this growth, MSC-certified catch has reached 11.8 million tons per year, compared to 8.8 million tons in 2014. The last year saw significant growth in the certification of certain species. In fact, 22% of the global tuna catch is now MSC-certified, compared with 19% in 2017, along with 62% of whitefish, compared with 52% in 2017.
- Political and business coalition around Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations’ SDG 14 on life below the water has been instrumental in galvanizing government and business commitments. MSC certification is now used by countries and organizations as an integral part of their voluntary commitments toward delivering SDG 14. This includes 27 members of the MSC’s Leaders for a Living Ocean initiative along with companies who have stepped up their commitments to providing sustainable products with the MSC label.
- Increasing efforts in the global South. With over half the world’s seafood coming from the global South, sustainable fishing in these regions is essential to safeguarding seafood supplies worldwide. The MSC is increasing efforts and capacity in the global South, along with its partner’s commitments to Fisheries Improvement Projects. This work is starting to bear fruit, with the number of MSC-certified fisheries in the global South more than doubling in the last two years (from 59 in 2017 to 124 in 2019). Initiatives such as the Fish for Good project in Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa, funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, are supporting fisheries by identifying areas for improvement and providing toolkits to put them on a pathway to sustainability.
The MSC has set a bold target for fisheries representing 30% of global marine catch engaged in its program by 2030. This commitment reflects the urgency of delivering SDG14 and the mounting pressure on oceans. It can only be achieved through broad commitments and leadership from organizations across the fishing, retail, government, conservation and science communities.
“Everyone involved in supporting sustainable seafood should be very proud of what has been achieved over the last two decades,” says Howes. “Our report shows a growing momentum behind sustainable seafood, which is helping to safeguard our oceans and seafood supplies for future generations. But, the global challenge of ending overfishing is profound. Climate change is increasing the urgency for meaningful collaboration across political and geographical borders. Well managed, sustainable fisheries protect our oceans and are more resilient to the impacts of climate change. While a lot has already been achieved, what happens next is even more important. We all need to step up to deliver the change our oceans urgently need.”